Civil War, Roman epic poetry, and the supernatural

Published 09 September 2012

The September Aspects of Antiquity lecture at the University is concerned with supernatural phenomena in the Civil War (Bellum Civile), the great epic poem by the first century AD poet Lucan.

Dr Paul Roche, who taught Classical languages and Ancient History at UNE in 2006 and 2007, will be the next speaker in the regular Aspects of Antiquity lecture series held in ‘The Gallery’ at Earle Page College, on Thursday 20 September at the slightly later time of 6pm.

Now Senior Lecturer in Latin at the University of Sydney, Paul Roche is very well qualified to speak on this subject. He recently published a commentary on book 1 of Lucan’s epic poem, and is currently preparing an edition of another of the books in this famous Latin epic.

This accessible lecture considers the use of the supernatural elements in Lucan’s epic poem. It will treat divination, haruspicy, astrology, prodigies, oracles, prophecy, prayer and the gods, sacrifice, and necromancy. A thematic overview will be provided which draws on examples of these phenomena in Lucan, and considers them against the overarching themes and preoccupations of this poem.

The Aspects of Antiquity lecture series is sponsored by the UNE School of Humanities, the Armidale Chapter of the UNE Alumni Association and Earle Page College.

The civil war motif continues the next day, Friday morning 21 September, when Dr Bronwyn Hopwood, Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at UNE, will give the seminar in the School of Humanities weekly research seminar series. This will take place at 9.30 at the University in Arts building Lecture Theatre A3.

Dr Hopwood’s title is ‘What’s in a name? Appian and the nomenclature of Oktaouios Kaisar.’

In this seminar she considers a much discussed passage in the second century AD Roman historian Appian, who claims (Civil Wars 4.8-11) to provide a Greek translation of the Latin proscription edict dated November 43 BC. The authenticity of the edict reproduced by Appian is widely accepted. Yet the opening title of this edict challenges this, for one of the triumvirs (the later Augustus) is called Octavius Caesar even though he was believed to have taken the name of his adoptive father, Gaius Julius Caesar (assassinated the year before), and to have avoided the name Octavianus entirely. Dr Hopwood will consider what we are to make of this historically.

As always, the lecture and seminar are free and open to all to attend.

Enquiries: Prof Greg Horsley (Classics and Ancient History) 6773 2390,